After playing the part of resident connoisseur on the culture-bending Queer Eye and recurring guest judge on Top Chef, culinary expert Ted Allen dives into a whole new kettle of fish with Food Detectives (premiering Tuesday at 9 pm/ET, Food Network). But this is not your average food show: "We're taking well-known myths and creating scientific experiments to test whether they're true," says Allen.
TVGuide.com: So what makes Detectives different from other food shows?
We have a group of henchmen, called Food Techs, whom we submit to various forms of torture — everything from eating habanero chilies to test what's the best way to cool down your mouth to studying whether ginger really prevents motion sickness. Which means you have to come up with a way to nauseate people — just think hot dogs, taxis, carnival rides. [Laughs] There are lots and lots of young actors in New York who will do virtually anything. We do have EMTs on hand, and even though it's moderately painful at times, we haven't lost anybody yet — I don't mean to death,of course not to death — I mean no one has left the show.
TVGuide.com: But admit it — you enjoy torturing the Food Techs.
I guess it does have a slight Jackass element to it, but a little more restrained.
TVGuide.com: Has anything turned your stomach yet?
We tested whether there's any truth to the five-second rule; we have a microbiologist from Johns Hopkins University, who we send out into the streets of New York with tongs and French fries. To see a PhD dropping food and then timing it with a stopwatch... it's just inherently funny. There are some surprising findings; your kitchen floor doesn't fare as well as you might think against the sidewalks of New York. Right before shooting, I had a bag of Milano cookies and there were only three left, and I dropped one on the floor. Without even thinking, I picked it up and ate it. As soon as we did the segment and looked at the kind of things that are on your floor, I got a little sick to my stomach.
TVGuide.com: Is your set basically a science lab, then?
Allen: Our set kind of stinks, actually. Right now it smells like rotten steak, because we did a section on what's going on with dry-aged beef. Why is it safe and delicious to eat? I wouldn't call it spoiled, because the humidity is carefully controlled, and you cut off the spoiled part — there, I've just said spoiled — you cut off the aged part, and inside the steak is beautiful. We wanted to compare that to a steak you just left out on the counter for a couple of days. [Laughs]
TVGuide.com: This is not something you should try at home.
Allen: No. And this is not something that [Top Chef judge and restaurateur] Tom Collichio is going to serve you.
TVGuide.com: Are you exploring any food mysteries you yourself have always wondered about?
Allen: I haven't really wondered whether chewing gum lives in your stomach for seven years after you eat it, but others... like the question of whether it's true that celery has negative calories. It sounds really stupid, but it turns out that the process of digesting it burns a lot of calories. You do come out slightly ahead, but what does that mean for your diet plan? Not much. There are a lot of old wives' tales like that out there. For example, is double-dipping as disgusting as you think it is? It's obviously impolite — but are you really spreading germs, and if so, how many?
TVGuide.com: Can you give us a hint as to how that experiment ends?
Allen: I guess I would just say don't eat the dip.
TVGuide.com: So you're doing a public service.
Allen: I'm not saying we're going to win the Nobel prize, but we might as well try.